Sturgill Simpson: 10 Things You Didn’t Know

Sturgill Simpson

If you watch television, listen to the radio, or read entertainment new, you have probably heart the name Sturgill Simpson quite a bit this week. He was nominated for a Grammy Award for the best album of the year. He is in competition with some huge musical powerhouses and multiple Grammy Award winners including Justin Bieber, Beyonce, and Adele. If you want to know more about Sturgill and more about how he got to where is is today, read on.

Sturgill’s Younger Years

Sturgill was born John Sturgill Simpson on June 8, 1978. He was born in a small town in Breathitt County, Kentucky called Jackson. His mother was a secretary and his father was a police officer. He started out as an undercover narcotics officer and then became a state police officer. Sturgill’s father’s work brought the family to a town called Versailles, which is located outside of Lexington. While living in Lexington, he attended Woodford County High School, and he graduated in 1996.

He Didn’t Join the Family Business

Sturgill’s mother’s family were all coal miners. All of the males on his mother’s side of the family started working in strip mines or deep mines right after graduating from high school. Some of his family members didn’t finish school, they went right into the family business where they often remained until they retired. This was not what Sturgill wanted for himself. Rather than joining the family business, he joined the Navy. He enlisted before he graduated from high school, and just a few weeks after graduation, he was shipped off to basic training at sea for three months. According to Sturgill, it is this experience of leaving home at such a young age that he found inspiration for some of his music, specifically on his most recent, Grammy-nominated album.

Sturgill’s First Band

In 2004, Sturgill formed a bluegrass band called Sunday Valley. The band gained notoriety quickly, and they played at the Pickathon festival in Portland, Oregon. After playing in the band for a while, he decided to take a break from music. He moved to Salt Lake City where he took a job at Union Pacific Railroad, where he took a job in the railroad’s freight shipping yard. He worked his way up at the company and eventually became the manager. His railroad career didn’t last long and he went back to music.

Sturgill Credits His Wife For His Return to Music

According to Sturgill, it was the support and encouragement of his friends and especially his wife Sarah that got him to leave his job at the railroad and to focus on his music career. He called singing a hobby until he got the encouragement that he needed to try his luck in the big time. At first, he played local solo gigs and he sang at open mic events. Not long after, he returned to Sunday Valley. The band made and album and they toured. When the group disbanded, Sturgill wasn’t ready to give up on music. He and his wife moved to Nashville so that he could focus on a solo career.

He Paid For His Own Album

After arriving in Nashville, Sturgill realized that he would need to make an album if he wanted people to hear him. Because he wasn’t signed to a label, he paid for and released his won album, High Top Mountian in 2013. Not long after the album’s release, he signed on with Loose, which was an independent British label. They helped to release his album in Europe in 2014.

The Reason Behind the Album’s Name, High Top Mountain

Right outside Jackson, there is a cemetery where many of Sturgill’s family members are buried. It is called High Top Mountain. This is where he got the name. There were several famous session musicians on the album including Hargus “Pig” Robbins, Waylon Jennings, and Robby Turner.

He Finished His Second Album Quickly

Many people consider Sturgill’s second album to be one of his best. This is surprising since it took just 5 ½ days to mix record and mix the album. He also says that it only cost $4,000 to make the album. Sturgill says that since he paid for his first album that he was very particular when it came to the time and cost of his albums after the first one. The sooner the work is done, the less expensive it will be.

Sturgill’s Family

Sturgill is married to a woman who he credits his music career to. He also has a son. He says that his album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, is meant to be a musical letter to his wife and son. He says that even though he takes his career seriously and it takes up a great deal of his time, he always makes time for his family. Sturgill believes that at the end of the day, family is the most important thing in life.

His Album Landed on Rolling Stone’s Best List

It was announced in November 2016 that Sturgill’s album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth landed at number 26 on Rolling Stone’s Top 50 albums of 2016. Soon after, he was nominated for a Grammy Award. It is clear that 2016 was his best year yet, career wise.

He Will Appear On Saturday Night Live

On December 20, 2016, it was announced that Sturgill will be a musical guest on Saturday Night Live. He will appear on the January 14th episode and Felicity Jones of Rogue One will be hosting. His performance will be the first of 2017. Sturgill says that he is really looking forward to his life performance and that he may be just a little bit nervous.

Sturgill has been down a long road in his life. He went from high school to the Navy to music to the railroad and then back to music again. He says that music allows him to express himself in ways that he never could before he found his sound. While he may be up against several musical superstars in the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, many people believe that he really has a chance to take home the win.

Photo via Instagram

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